Foreign investments to spur local solar industry growth
Manila (6 December) -- Senator Edgardo J. Angara identified Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) as a key component in driving the local solar industry.
Angara, Chair of the Congressional Commission on Science Technology and Engineering (COMSTE), noted the recent news that Belgian firm Enfinity announced applications for 15 Renewable energy (RE) projects, valued at $1 billion.
Angara said that COMSTE has been pushing for similar FDI leveraging in order to identify the best technology for solar energy, and monitor the efficiency of solar panels in local conditions.
Solar Testing Facility
COMSTE is working with industry partner First Philec to open a Philippine solar testing facility, which will be formally opened next week in Tanauan, Batangas.
Angara said that the facility is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) that can test different types of solar modules, arrays, and balance of systems components for optimal output in tropical conditions.
The test facility would ideally be a, "clearinghouse of engineering information on price, performance, reliability of state of the art Photovoltaic (PV) components," noted Angara.
Angara said that the solar testing facility marks the beginning of the proposed Renewable Energy Research and Development Institute (RERDI), which is set to expand the Renewable Energy industry of the country.
"Developing innovative Renewable Energy Systems can aid in achieving the long term goal of energy independence. With RERDI, we can fully utilize Public Private Partnerships and our ties with neighboring countries to stimulate growth in the RE power sector," said Angara.
The Philippine Solar Power Association (PSPA) recently presented data showing their proposed solar installation target up to 2013. Members of the PSPA have submitted plans to the Renewable Energy Management Bureau of the Department of Energy for service contacts of up to 350 megawatts.
COMSTE was part of a Philippine delegation that went to Taiwan recently to meet with the heads of more than 15 solar companies and encourage them to send their solar cells for testing at the new solar testing facility.
Dr. Shigero Niki of Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, who heads their Solar Research and Testing Laboratory, expressed interest in sending PV for testing in the Philippines, noting that a testing facility here would be able to identify the proper engineering and technology for PV arrays and components which would be ideal for tropical conditions.
Dr. Janglin Chen of Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) also expressed interest in collaborating with COMSTE as it further develops the solar testing facility.
Mindanao Energy Crisis
"In COMSTE our panel experts in Energy and Environment have targeted solar energy as a key factor in overcoming the power crisis in Mindanao. This source of Renewable Energy (RE) can complement existing coal-fired plants and is applicable even if off-grid areas," said Angara.
COMSTE reports show that recent studies by the Manila Observatory (MO) have indicated that Mindanao will be drier in the years to come lessening the effectiveness of RE sources like Hydropower, which supplies 70% of the power to the island.
Angara stated that the government should look into alternative ways to develop power sources, specifically through Public Private Partnerships (PPP's). He said that the Cagayan Electric Power and Light Co., Inc. (Cepalco), which already has a 1MW solar plant in Cagayan de Oro, is looking to expand their existing capacity to 4MW in two years.
"We should be able to take advantage of collaboration with the private sector and develop more energy projects that can take advantage of the Renewable Energy Act," added Angara.
The Renewable Energy Act of 2008 exempts renewable energy sources from Value Added Tax (VAT), grants a seven year income tax holiday, and prioritizes the purchase, grid connection and transmission of electricity generated by companies from renewable energy sources. (COMSTE) [top]